I'm starting counseling with a new therapist today. I've tried counseling before and haven't gotten much out of it. I hope I like her. I hope she "gets" me and we can connect, because I've got some personal stuff going on that I could really use an objective set of eyes on. I also feel sort of spiritually wounded by all the bad things happening in the world and I just need a place to lay that down safely, without the fear of overburdening people who are also feeling that way.
But don't worry, I'm fine, I just need to talk it out. Sometimes the healer needs healing, you know? It doesn't mean I'm crazy or fucked up or anything; I know there's still stigma in some circles concerning reaching out for help in this way, but I assure you there's no shame in it. I don't feel remotely bad for saying I need help. Granted, I do this work for a living, so I know how healing it can be. Too, I'm not particularly prideful in this way, but even for those of us who are, I believe it should be met with admiration when someone is brave and honest enough to say they can't handle something on their own. Because: trauma is real, both acute and multigenerational trauma (e.g., the effects of racism). Anxiety is real. Fear is real. Sadness and grief are real. To experience those emotions, even in large, seemingly overwrought doses, is normal, and to deny them only gives them more power to wreak havoc on our lives.
I want to make sure that's clear right now in particular while all this mess is happening in South Carolina. Often, when white men go on killing rampages like the one that just happened, instead of addressing things like systemic racism, we focus on the alleged mental illness of this individual person, which we insist must have informed the heinous act. While our cultural attention to mental health is a **very** important discussion to be having, my concern here is manifold: first, in this case, it ignores the other issues, (which in this particular case is clearly the deep roots of racism). Secondly, it fails to hold the person accountable for his actions: "He was crazy." Perhaps he is mentally ill, but from what we can tell thus far, these acts were premeditated and carefully executed, decidedly not the rash actions of some active psychosis.
But what this conversation also does is conflate "mental illness" with violence and extreme behaviors, which serves only to further stigmatize "mental illness", when in fact many people struggle with very manageable/treatable mental health issues (e.g., depression, anxiety, PTSD).
I say all of this because I was realizing today that there are so many people traumatized by acts like this (as well as everyday things) who will not be getting the help that they need for myriad reasons, not the least of which is that there is a lingering (erroneous) perception that to say you have "mental health issues" is to somehow place yourself in a category with deeply disturbed people like Dylann Roof. Which is simply not accurate. To have "mental health issues" in many ways is simply to be human, because to greater or lesser degrees we all have something going on in this area.
So, I would like to extend an invitation to anyone suffering from any emotional or mental health issues that you consider reaching out to someone for professional help. Even if you think your problems are "no big deal", and you can "handle them on your own"...if you've been having the same patterns come up in your life that are causing you to disconnect from people, or feel poorly, or not sleep well, or worry all the time, please note: you do not have to live like that. You can feel better, you just might need a little assistance getting there. There are tons of mental health providers around, some of whom are really good, some of whom are probably not that great. You may have to shop around. Use available resources. Ask friends for referrals. Google. Call your insurance company and ask for providers who accept your insurance if finances are a concern.
Most of all, please believe me when I say: there is no shame in seeking help. The real shame is suffering needlessly. I have watched my clients radically change their lives and go on to be significantly happier than they were when they first came to me. I'm not a miracle worker; they did most of the work. But it's amazing what having a little extra support and encouragement and challenging feedback can do. You can still be strong, and resilient, and prideful, while allowing yourself the space and opportunity to heal. It's okay to say you can't do it alone.There are so many scary, negative, bad things happening in the world that I would venture a guess most of us have some healing work we could do around cultural trauma. Black people experience the trauma of racism on a regular basis, just woven right into the fabric of their lives. Millions of women have experienced unreported sexual assault and just carry on with their lives as though nothing happened. I wish we would all treat our mental health as as legitimate a concern as our physical health, and remove any lingering stigma from reaching out for help. We'd all be so much happier.
Meanwhile, I'm off to therapy. Sorry for the lecture. You know I'm extra. :)
Wish me luck!